The Best Time a Negligible Cultural Thing Caused Me Literally Years of Torment

by The Hairpin

There’s an episode of Friends that takes place shortly after the Ross/Rachel split in which Rachel starts dating Russ, who’s exactly like Ross in every way (he’s played by David Schwimmer in a feathery wig).

Rachel, of course, doesn’t get it, until Monica loses all ability to pretend like what’s happening is OK. “You’re dating Ross,” she screams, and Rachel says, “No, I’m dating Russ,” and then her face falls and we see her realize that RUSS IS ROSS IS RUSS IS ROSS, AND WHAT DOES ANYTHING EVEN MEAN ANYMORE?

As a creature of habit, this episode, which I saw on some Thursday night in 2001 and countless times since on TBS, haunts me. I lie in bed at night wondering if guys I go out with are just other guys I’ve gone out with in wigs, or if the new dress I bought that sort of makes me look pregnant is a NEW, DIFFERENT dress that’s going to make me look not-pregnant, against all odds, or if it is the SAME DRESS in a slightly different color and shape.

They say insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, and I’m finally ready to nip this problem in the bud. That’s why I bought the individual DVD the episode is on AND the box set of the full season, which, come to think of it, is sort of Ross/Russ-y.

There’s always next year. — Angela Serratore

There was a throwaway line in the growth-spurt chapter of What’s Happening to My Body Book for Girls that was like, “Do you notice that your jeans are already at your ankles only months after you got them?” and I was like WHAT?! Where are jeans supposed to be?! Because for years all my jeans had been floating inches above my ankle — hideously, apparently, as I suddenly realized as I read this book. And then if you look at the back cover, the author’s just some mom, and I was like, how does this MOM, this NERD, know how to wear clothes and reference it so casually? What does she know?! Ahh it killed me. To this day I refuse to wear pants that are even a little bit short. PENANCE. — Edith Zimmerman

I used to watch a lot of Nickelodeon back in the day, especially the game show hosted by Marc Summers, What Would You Do? — a question I took EXTREMELY seriously. What would I do, indeed, Mr. Summers!? It was a game show for kidz (obvs), and there was some segment at the end called “Special Talent” where they pulled a random person out of the audience and had them perform a special talent like leap-frogging or making weird noises. Now, as a sentient, thinking adult, I realize they probably asked everyone in the audience if they had a special talent and then would not-quite-so-randomly invite that person onstage, but as a kid I would agonize over what I could do if I was randomly chosen out of the audience. This was at a time when I didn’t really do anything but read books and wear mismatched socks on purpose, so I had no special talent except maybe talking about Greek mythology for hours on end. And although the fact that 1) my parents would rather sacrifice a limb than take a family vacation to Universal Studios in Orlando, and 2) even if we did, the odds that I would not only be in the studio audience of What Would You Do? but also out of hundreds of audience members be chosen to perform a special talent were EXTREMELY slim to none, I still managed to fret, fret, fret my little 10-year-old brain over my lack of special talent. Maybe this wasn’t even about the show so much! I mean, I still fret about this shit to this day!? What IS my special talent? Damn you, Summers. — Katie Walsh

Previously: The Best Time I Had a Misunderstanding in a Foreign Country.